johnlink ranks THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)

When I know I really want to see something I try to avoid learning anything about it. I never watch the previews for a following week’s episode on TV. I don’t read news on character spoilers on various websites. And, more to the point, I do everything in my power to avoid trailers of highly anticipated films. With THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, I saw the very first teaser trailer a year ago, and have seen nothing since. All I knew going in was that Bane was the bad guy, and Catwoman was added to the roster. In that spirit, this will be an atypical review for me. I’m going to do a spoiler free write-up, then give my rankings (cause that’s why you are all here, right? Hello? Where is everyone?) and then, after the rankings, I’m going to talk some spoiler heavy stuff. Because, truly, it is impossible to consider this film without discussing its climax.

I watched THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012) in theaters on 7.23.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

Through the first hour of this film, I could not help but feel as though it was my third favorite in the series. I hate to be an ADD film viewer, but seeing Batman twice in the first sixty minutes of a Batman movie isn’t exactly what I was anticipating. But then Bane and Batman have their first encounter, and the film really gets rolling. After that there is an incident involving the police marching on some bad guys, and from that point the film goes off the charts. See, the second half of this movie is, in my humble opinion, close to the level of BATMAN BEGINS. Yes there are terrible logic flaws, but the energy of the movie is where it should be.

I end up placing this film above THE DARK KNIGHT and below BATMAN BEGINS in my hierarchy of Nolan’s trilogy. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is a better film than THE DARK KNIGHT, but a slightly less entertaining one. The acting, however, is the best in the series. I’ve long said that Michael Caine is a perfect Alfred. He’s not wasted even a little bit in this final chapter. The emotion he’s asked to find was certainly unexpected, and Caine is absolutely note-perfect. I would put it on par with Ledger’s performance in THE DARK KNIGHT, though in a much less eccentric role. Tom Hardy does a really nice job embodying Bane, even if the sound mix of his voice sometimes left me unsure of what he said. The addition of Anne Hathaway comes across as somewhat unnecessary, but certainly does not detract from the film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Officer Blake, on the other hand, is a very solid addition. Gary Oldman is perfectly utilized as Gordon, and I love that he gets to be such a vital part of the story, and not just the guy who lights up the symbol.

The writing in this film works, despite some major comicy leaps. An entire police force, minus a dozen or so guys, all goes to one place at the right time. A bomb which seemed unstable suddenly develops a timer. The electric company apparently shuts off your power a day or two after you go bankrupt, rather than waiting for several unpaid bills. In fact, most of the logical failings have to do with time, and how time plays out. This is a film which begins eight years after the events of DARK KNIGHT, and which seems to play out over the course of six months on its own. Five of those months occur in the film’s third act. It’s certainly a tough tightrope to walk, but the Brother Nolan got much more right than wrong. There was less use of coincidence in this film than in DARK KNIGHT, and that alone is a success.

This is also Bale’s best turn as Wayne and Batman, matching the amazing first hour of BATMAN BEGINS when he trains in the Himalayas. Bruce Wayne is a sour man at the film’s start, eight years removed from donning the cape. Alfred is playing a more fatherly role than ever, and Bruce isn’t thrilled about it. Bale goes from nearly crippled to full on Batman convincingly (a couple of times, actually). I’ve read some reviews which paint Batman as a wimp, or as weak because of his encounters with Bane. For me, Batman is just HUMAN. In that sense, it is very smart. Put another way, if a guy eight years removed from a fight got put in a ring with a highly trained fighter in peak physical shape, who do you think would win?

I was negative about the way Gotham was presented in the second film. I think Nolan got it right in using Pittsburgh as the stand in for Gotham this go around. I did think that some of the sewer stuff could have used the underground of the first film a little more (where did all those underground streets go), but I enjoyed the feel of Gotham as the setting for this film.

I think that’s as much spoiler free as I can provide. I’m going to go ahead and score this, and then get back to the spoiler heavy stuff. I’ll put some distance between the scores and the rest, so don’t worry about accidentally reading something you don’t want to. The scores below do, of course, also reflect what I have to say in the spoiler section.



The cinematography in this was spectacular. Lots of great shots of Gotham by way of Pittsburgh. Nicely composed, nicely presented. I bet this looks magnificent in IMAX



And don’t go any lower unless you’ve seen this thing.






Well, if you are still with me you better know how this ends. Batman may be dead, but Bruce Wayne ain’t. And really, that is a note perfect conclusion to the trilogy. At the end of the first film Gotham needed a hero. At the end of the second it needed a villain. At the end of the third Gotham needed a sacrifice.

And so, Batman is dead to all, having blown himself up for the good of the city. I had my suspicions about the actuality of this if only because I didn’t feel there was proper closure between Alfred and Bruce (I joked that if he was really going to die, Bruce Wayne would have become Bruce Willis in ARMAGEDDON and called him on his way to die). There was also too much tease about the auto-pilot thing before the film got to its climactic end. Plus, well, I just didn’t WANT him to die. The series, sure, is dark and sometimes foreboding. But the story is ultimately uplifting for the audience. Sure the citizens of Gotham don’t get to know what we know, but this movie is for us, the viewer, not them, the subjects. Regardless of that, there is nothing to say Batman couldn’t come back in another eight years if needed. Plenty is made of the idea that Batman could be anybody, so for someone else to pick up the mantle would not be absurd.

That’s not to say that I think the film is teasing Blake as the next Batman. The film (wisely) doesn’t end with him finding the suit, or donning the mask. Instead he finds an underground layer, a place from which he can birth his own identity.

I liked the twist with Miranda being the subject of the prison story, and not Bane. I’m sure some saw that coming, but I didn’t. The trilogy hadn’t been played that way all along. There were no big twists through this whole series (unless you didn’t know Harvey Dent was to become Two Face). So that one absolutely got me, and I thought it was smart.

I’ve been reading a lot of negative reviews on this (particularly, I’ll point out Harry Knowles’s horrendous review over at Aint It Cool). I think the expectation  may have been too far off the charts for some. For me personally, I expected a lot. I was worried about where it was all going up until Catwoman’s first betrayal of Batman, and then I was very satisfied from there on in. My blood got going when the police rushed the bad guys, and it never slowed down until the credits hit. That’s all you can ask for. While watching it, I was able to look past the absurd timer on the bomb, and the silliness of Catwoman (who is officially the campiest part of a trilogy that otherwise plays it safe). For me, the positive vastly outweighed the negative. I’m not a Batman comics fan. I wasn’t looking for any certain goals, or any certain uses of character. I just wanted to become engaged in a good story and I absolutely feel like Nolan, through this entire trilogy, succeeded on that level.

I’m immensely satisfied with this series. I appreciate the journey it took us on, and the story it brought forth. Warner Brothers is already working on the reboot, which is unfortunate. The next Batman has a giant batsuit to fill. No matter what happens with the character in the future, I will always have the amazingly consistent Nolan/Bale trilogy to come back home to.

~ by johnlink00 on July 24, 2012.

3 Responses to “johnlink ranks THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)”

  1. […] Here is the Link to TDKR Share this:TwitterFacebookMoreTumblrDiggRedditStumbleUponLinkedInPinterestLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  2. Very good review. I enjoyed reading it.

  3. Additionally, I recommend you review the early ’90’s film MALICE.

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